The National AIDS Authority will launch a campaign to publicize Cambodia’s little-known HIV/AIDS law and to warn peddlers of bogus AIDS cures that heavy jail penalties await them if they continue their operations, NAA officials said Thursday.
In 2002, the National Assembly passed legislation making it a crime to knowingly pass the HIV virus to another person or advertise cures for the disease that leads to death. Penalties for violators range from six months to 15 years in prison.
However, fake AIDS-cure doctors continue to operate clinics and advertise miracle potions in local newspapers, Chen Chhear, acting director of the Hospital Services Department at the Ministry of Health, said Thursday.
“They want to cheat patients of their money. If they could really cure the disease, they would win the Nobel Prize and get a lot of money. They would not need to cheat the people,” she said.
Though clinics and doctors licensed by the Ministry of Health are required to obtain permission from the ministry before advertising medical cures, the bogus clinics are not licensed and cannot be sanctioned, Chen Chhear said.
NAA Secretary-General Tia Phalla said Thursday that a campaign to publicize the AIDS law will be launched on Dec 20, and will include a roundtable discussion broadcast on national television. “Currently there is only the law, but the information about the law is not widespread yet,” he said. “After the campaign we will file a complaint against bogus doctors who claim they can cure AIDS.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that neither the Ministry of Health nor the NAA had, to his knowledge, ever lodged a complaint against those selling a cure for AIDS. “We can’t take any measures unless there is a complaint…. Even I have never heard of the AIDS law,” he said.
Tuk Dara, who this week advertised his AIDS treatment potion in the Khmer-language newspaper Kampuchea Thmey (New Cambodia) Daily, said he doesn’t claim to cure people with his so-called herbal tonic—just to make them feel 90 percent better and prolong their lives. “I never seek permission from the Ministry of Health because the drug is the same foreign drug which is used to prolong the AIDS’ patients lives,” said Tuk Dara. “I never cheated anyone for money,” he added.